Sex education | A right violated time and again

Photo OLIVIER PONTBRIAND, La Presse Archive

The future Culture and Citizenship course in Quebec should include sex education, but the Ministry of Education has not yet specified which concepts will be covered.

Alexandre Sirois

Alexandre Sirois
The press

Sex education is a “violated right” among young people in Quebec, denounced three years ago by a coalition that brought together a large number of civil society organizations working in the field. Unfortunately nothing seems to have changed today.

Posted at 5:00 am

Last month, we reported on our pages that teens in Quebec are still too numerous to “barely have had sex education in school” upon leaving high school.

The offer is still variable in geometry. And it is regrettable.

Of course, the pandemic has contributed to weakening this supply. We had not yet overcome the difficulties inherent in the implementation of such content across the network. The health crisis has been an additional obstacle.

However, let’s not forget that the first pilot project in this file started in 2015… It’s been seven years already! Do we have to wait a long time before we can finally say that we are offering our young people knowledge as fundamental as what they learn in their French or math classes?

It would be unacceptable.

Let’s specify here that our elected officials are not twiddling their thumbs. Last year, the CAQ government formalized the disappearance of the Ethics and Religious Culture course. The latter will be replaced by a Quebec Culture and Citizenship course, which should include sex education.

Giving sex education a real place in the curriculum is a major change, the impact of which should not be underestimated.

As a reminder, in 2018 Quebec added 5 to 15 hours of sex education to Quebec schools. Everyone immediately applauded. But soon the teachers said they were struggling to find where to integrate these new concepts into an already crowded schedule.

With a specific course and a designated teacher, we are in a sense returning to the era of Personal and Social Education (FPS) training, which disappeared in the 2000s. So it is a clear progression.

But watch out. Experts in this field warn those who would dare to believe that this is a miracle solution. The devil is in the details. And the Ministry of Education, which is currently working on the content of the Quebec Culture and Citizenship course, would do well to remember this.

If notions of sex education have drifted too often in recent years, it’s not just because of the pandemic, we’re told. It is also because there is still unrest among the teachers responsible for it.

These mainly require more support. Not all teachers feel equipped and ready to intervene adequately if they are challenged by their students about, for example, sexual violence.

Several specialized stakeholders are already lending a hand to educational institutions. They are ready to do more.

However, they question whether the resources will be there.

The ÉduSex coalition, which brings together about a hundred members — including a majority from community organizations — estimates that Quebec injects less than $5 per student each year “to enable schools to deliver sex education courses” and that this is insufficient.

Some also wonder what training future teachers will receive from the Culture and Citizenship of Quebec course and what the content of the notions of sex education they will have to discuss with their students. The content of the training offered in recent years has been approved by the Quebec Professional Association of Sexologists, but the past is no guarantee of the future.

Finally, let’s not forget that the announcement of the Culture and Citizenship course in Quebec last year took the form of a political marketing stunt. Such enthusiasm was premature. You allow us to judge the tree by its fruits, especially with regard to sex education.

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